Nokia Pitches Full 5G Suite but Shies Away From 5G Acceleration Push

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2017 -- Nokia strapped on a 5G boombox here today, announcing what it claims is the industry's first end-to-end 5G solution that includes radio access, packet core and transport capabilities based on what it describes as "early specifications." (See Nokia Announces 5G FIRST Solution.)

The vendor, which unleashed a series of announcements today (of which more later), is keen to position itself as having an all-singing, all-dancing 5G proposition that can give operators a "first-to-market advantage," and use the experience of early deployments to feed into the 3GPP's 5G standards process.

So this is a pre-standards solution, "underpinned by technical specifications outlined by the Verizon 5G Technology Forum ecosystem," notes Nokia, with the radio access elements based on specs from the KT Special Interests Group (KT SIG) as well as Verizon's code.

"This is not hype," said Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) CEO Rajeev Suri at the vendor's press and analyst presentation here today, without a trace of irony.

But the 5G hype machine is in overdrive and that might backfire. With so many suggestions that 5G is ready to rock -- albeit in pre-standards formats -- might that not tempt some operators to curb investment in LTE-Advanced Pro (aka 4.5G) and other LTE evolution options in the hope of being able to deploy 5G capabilities soon?

Suri sidestepped that (and other) questions with a response that focused on the vendor's technology launches rather than the strategic issue at hand. He also failed to address a question about Nokia's absence from a broad industry collaborative announcement made earlier in the day that aimed to accelerate the development of 5G New Radio (NR) specifications by the 3GPP standards body. (See Global Mobile Industry Leaders Commit to Accelerate 5G NR for Large-scale Trials and Deployments.)

That 5G NR announcement was backed by Ericsson, Huawei, ZTE, Qualcomm, Intel and a host of networks operators including AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, KT Corp., NTT Docomo, SK Telecom, Sprint, Vodafone and many more, and aims for the "acceleration of the 5G New Radio (NR) standardization schedule to enable large-scale trials and deployments as early as 2019." That group will propose a new plan for NR standardization at the upcoming 3GPP RAN Plenary Meeting (March 6-9 in Dubrovnik, Croatia).

So why is Nokia not involved? It seems Nokia believes that accelerating the NR standard will leave it out of synch with development of the 5G packet core that will enable key features such as network slicing. That, believes Nokia, would create a schism in the 5G development community and ultimately slow down the process of full 5G development, rather than accelerate it.

Of course, there will likely be other factors too -- such developments usually also relate to business opportunities and/or competitive advantage and it seems Nokia is almost alone amongst key infrastructure vendors in not wanting to pressurize the 3GPP into forcing the NR specs, though it's notable too that Samsung is not a signatory and, from the network operator side, Verizon is not supporting this acceleration initiative.

In addition to its 5G FIRST announcement, Nokia had a number of other updates to share on MWC's 'Day 0':

  • The vendor has won a won a three-year contract from Telefónica UK to upgrade the operator's 4G network across London. The deal includes the delivery of Nokia 4.5G Pro technology, including elements from the AirScale Radio Access portfolio, Flexi Zone small cells, the NetAct network management system, Traffica real-time network analytics and Nokia Global Services.

  • Nokia is making headway into the vertical markets in which it has targeted to deliver -- namely, energy, transportation, public safety and "webscale." It has landed a deal to provide Xiaomi, a major Chinese electronics manufacturer (smartphones, laptops, tablets) and ISP, with its 1830 Photonic Service Switch (PSS) and Network Services Platform, which will be used to build a data center interconnect (DCI) network connecting seven facilities. Nokia is also supplying Portugal's national railway infrastructure operator, Infraestruturas, with a mission-critical communications network.

  • Nokia is to supply Indian mobile operator Reliance Jio with GPON broadband equipment for an as yet unspecified fixed access network rollout.

    — Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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